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Chapter 11 ~ Allies lost

R e n a

Countless days of wandering and scattered tracks and I’m no closer to Kian than the day he was captured. There is no sign of life anywhere, just miles and miles of sand. No bandits and worst of all no Kian.

My rations are getting low and my water supply is decreasing rapidly each day.

I’ve managed to stop my wound from bleeding, but if I don’t find a better way of cleaning and dressing it, it’ll go septic and I’ll die out here anyway.

There’s only so much healing runes can do when one is weakened. I can feel my hope beginning to wane and desperateness slowly seeping in, but I know deep in my heart that I can’t give up now.

I never go back on my promises. I will not leave Kian to his fate.

Barnie is flying overhead, but he’ll tire soon.

He’s been doing the same thing ever since we lost sight of Kian, flying over the plains calling for him; I can hear the strain in his call. I know how he feels, the sense of urgency in his searching. This deep-rooted need to be reunited with him is a feeling we both share.

I can’t help but feel as though this is my fault, I should have been more wary. I should have taken greater precaution, but I let myself get distracted.

Kian is no fighter, there was no way he could have handled them alone and yet I’d allowed him to split us up, I let my guard down.

I vow when I find him it will never happen again.

There is no use blaming myself or even him, it’s wasting precious time. Time that I don’t really have and neither does he. Who knows where he is, if he’s safe. Searching for him through runemagic will do no good. I’m too weak to use that much of my aura, but I dread to think anything awful has happened to him.

The sun is burning down on me and it makes me glad to have a shawl wrapped around my head, protecting me from its strong glare.

With each sudden movement of the horse under me, a sharp pain cut into my side where the boy wounded me.

It isn’t too bad and I have seen to it, but it is pretty uncomfortable if I move.

As I look around, my hope dwindles a little more. There is still desert for miles and not only have I to track down those fiends; I have to find a source of water.

Thankfully I haven’t come across any more tunnel worms and I haven’t seen anything apart from the odd scorpion.

I know it’s unfair to the horses, but I kick them into a run.

Guilt hangs over me like a heavy cloud, but I decide I’ll make it up to them later by giving them my share of water. We need to cover more ground anyway and it seems as though this is the only way to do it.

As I follow the tracks east along the endless hills of sand, my mind returns to Kian.

I wonder if they’ve hurt him, if they’re starving him or if they’ve left him somewhere in this vast emptiness all alone to fend for himself.

“Where are you?” I whisper to the wind.

K i a n

I’m trying to count the days, but they’re blurring into each other.

I don’t know where we are, but the desert is slowly becoming greener each passing day and from what I can read of the stars, we’re moving east. Obviously we’ve made it out of the wastelands, but I wonder where these people are taking me and why they haven’t killed me yet.

They can’t be demons either, their glamour would have run out by now and they would have changed back into their original form. Neither of them is a Halfling like me; they haven’t got the marking of one. Though I haven’t seen them yet, I’m pretty sure they are either pure ones or impure. Most likely the latter. Unmarked humans haven’t been around for centuries.

I can only assume they mean to sell me. That would be the only explanation to me still living. If they don’t, only the Gods know what they are up to.

I’m currently tied onto the back of the boy’s camel and it isn’t the most comfortable place in the world to be, but I suppose as their prisoner I don’t get much choice when it comes to seating arrangements.

My hope for Rena to come to my rescue is slowly fading away with every passing day. I wonder how far away she is, because I do know one thing for certain, she is coming for me.

I want to help her find me, any type of sign to show her I’m still alive, but I don’t know how until an idea surges through my mind like lightning.

When both of my captors aren’t looking, I manage to wriggle out of my satchel and drop it into the sand. I know the risk I’m taking is great. All three of the Books of Old are stashed away in it and both bandits never bothered checking me or my satchel when they escaped with me. If my plan doesn’t go accordingly, then we could potentially have a pretty huge problem. The end of our journey as we know it.

I thank the Gods they don’t hear the thud as the satchel hits the sandy floor amongst the creeping vines and we keep riding deeper into the forest and away from the desert and Rena.

I just hope to the Gods that it works. It has to.

That satchel is my last hope

R e n a

I think that the desert is finally coming to an end, unless it’s a mirage I see before me.

I lift myself up off of the horse and land beside him, taking both of their reins in hand.

We’ll surely find water in here and hopefully Kian too.

As I make my way towards the forest, more and more greenery appears and I smile with relief. I slip down from my steed, patting his neck as I start forward with him beside me, reins in hand. I glance back at Barnie perched on Kian’s horse, my mouth slips from a smile to a thin line as I think of him.

I take another step forward and trip, falling to the ground.

“Bloody rock” I grumble as I kick the thing that tripped me. There’s a rustle and a muted thump as something falls onto the sandy floor.

I look up, focusing closer to see that it isn’t in fact a rock, it’s a satchel. My eyes widen as my eyes travel over to what had fallen out, my chest bursting with hope before my eyes even land on the book.

“It can’t be,” I mutter, too afraid to hope any more than I already do.

Tentatively, I open the flap to find two of the three Books of Old, the third lying by my feet.

“By the Gods,” I breathe, not able to finish my sentence. This satchel is Kian’s.

I quickly grab it and hold it close to my chest. He must have left it for me to find, there is no way he’d let it drop into the woodland floor where the desert meets the forest without a very good reason. It’s a clue, left only for me.

Happy tears form in my eyes, but I quickly blink them away. No time for silly emotions to take over. I brush the sand off the book, slip it into the satchel which I then tie it onto the horse.

He’s here and he’s not far. This thought gives me hope, I’ve almost found him.

“I’m coming for you,” I say, determination strong in my bones.

K i a n

Two days have passed and still no sign of Rena.

My mind keeps drilling over all the possibilities. Maybe she got lost in the desert or maybe a tunnel worm attacked her.

Maybe she’s just found the satchel and it trying to get through the dense forest to me or maybe she hasn’t found it at all.

We made it out of the forest yesterday and into a huge clearing where an old abandoned village stands, next to a huge lake. The village is in dire need of repair, the place looks forlorn and forgotten. Whoever lived here previously left in a hurry, children’s toys are left for the woodland vines to devour.

The silence that surrounds the village is quite unnerving and the lake, though seemingly tranquil is too quiet for my liking, not even a ripple on its surface.

The sky is no longer blue, but a murky grey from all the clouds covering it.

I don’t feel welcome here and I think my captors feel the same, though this doesn’t stop them from setting up camp here. I suppose they have felt unwelcome enough not to stop them from resting where they maybe shouldn’t.

I sense as if this place doesn’t like us staying here, but their camels need rest and so here we will stay until they see fit.

I’ve been dumped in a corner of the roofed room we’re staying in, what I can only presume was once someone’s home. Now all that’s left is rotting wood and the inescapable stench of damp and mould.

Both my ankles and wrists are tied up, but thankfully they haven’t bothered to cover up my mouth.

The longer I’m left alive, the more I wonder what their plans for me are. If they wanted to kill me, they’d have left me for dead in the desert surely. I can only assume it has something to do with Rena and their fallen comrade.

I suppose in time I’ll find out my fate. That is, if she doesn’t find me and kill them first.

R e n a

It took two days before I finally arrived at the ghost town.

I’d been walking aimlessly around the forest for a couple of hours until I found a dirt path with hoof marks scattered along it. Only a day or so old, my natural assumption was they were the bandits and more importantly, Kian.

I followed it for a day or so and reached a clearing.

I knew straight away, that the village had either been abandoned or something terrible had happened to its inhabitants. Entering stealthily, I felt anything but welcomed.

I could hear whispers in the wind and the lake didn’t even ripple when the wind softly kissed its surface. Something happened here that I don’t want to even thing about.

I’m tempted to rush to the lake and drink down the water in large gulps, but something tells me that this isn’t a good idea and so I stay away.

I suppose I will just have to survive with the water I have left, but it won’t be enough to last me any more than a week.

As I make my way through the town, I hear voices and quickly hide away in the closest building, leading the horses behind me. Barnie senses my hesitation about this place and dives back into the trees, unwilling to follow me into the empty house. I can’t say I blame him.

The voices are muffled and though I can’t hear what they are saying, I recognise them. They definitely belong to the bandits who took off with Kian, I’m sure of it.

It’s only as their voices grow fainter, that I realize they are walking away, further into the village. Most likely to loot any goods left behind by the village folk.

I leave the horses tied to a post in the empty house and take my chance.

Following them isn’t hard at all, they don’t look behind them and they’re too busy conversing to hear me.

When they suddenly mention Kian, I perk up a little. That means he’s still alive.

“He’s not worth anything to us. There ain’t no slave trade. Not where we’re headed,” The man explains.

“Why didn’t we dump him sooner?” The boy asks.

“And run the risk of leading his little girlfriend right to us? By the gods do you even have a brain in that head of yers?” The man raises his voice, shoving the boys head.

“We grab all we can, kill the kid and leave this rotten place before Odin himself can say otherwise,” He continues, his voice gruff.

I listen to their plans to kill Kian and smirk. They won’t get the chance to harm a hair on his head. They’ll be dead before the night even arrives.

I follow them all through their looting and right back to their hideout, making sure I’m always few feet away and never in plain sight.

I watch them disappear through the door, before putting to play the plan I’d formulated while following them. I pull out the machete and slide my finger across the cool metal, a small smile formulating on my face as I do so. Kian and I will be reunited soon.

Heat rises up my neck before I can stop mylsef. I shake my head free of thoughts of Kian and focus on the task ahead.

Go in, find Kian, kill the bastards who kidnapped him and leave. Easy enough in theory.

I glance up at the door a couple of metres away from where I’m stood.

A grim smile changes my features as I think of what’s to come, I haven’t fought in what feels like a lifetime. This is going to be interesting.

K i a n

They’re back. I don’t know where they went or what they were doing because I’ve been stuck tied up in this corner for hours on end, but by the look of the clinking sacks over each of their backs, I can only presume they’ve been busy.

My body is stiff from lack of movement and I’m starving, not to mention bored.

My kidnappers have been ignoring me ever since they got back, but now I catch them staring at me and whispering to one another.

I can’t hear their exact words, but I think they’re discussing what to do with me or rather when to kill me. As I attempt come to terms with this, I mentally plead for Rena to turn up and help me. Though as I’m thinking this, someone very familiar steps through the door.

“I think you have something that belongs to me,” she says.

I can’t see her face, but I know its Rena.

I let out a huge sigh of relief. Be it fate or just pure luck, someone heard my prayers and here she is. The bandits stand up in alarm and rush for their weapons.

Seconds later I’m watching a fight erupt between the three and to my horror I’m surprised to find that Rena isn’t actually doing so well.

I wonder what it is that’s made her so weak and then I notice it. Just below her waistline is a growing red stain. She must have been wounded back at the library and her fighting now has just reopened the wound.

I want to help, but being tied up in a corner has its disadvantages and the rope is too tight for my hands to slide through. I rush to try and untie my ankles but it’s taking too long and one thing Rena is running out of is time.

I’m stuck sitting there as I watch Rena slowly get beaten by my captors.

I feel helpless tied up in a corner and my heart aches to help her.

She’s barely managing to fend them off, and they are beating down into her. I can see her strength is slowly failing her.

I suddenly gasp as the boy plunges his dagger into her side and she cries out.

I find myself shaking in my head as tears blur my vision. The events unfolding in front of me seem surreal to me, I can’t believe this could even happen.

In my eyes, Rena had always seemed invincible, but now I see her at her weakest, I suddenly realize she isn’t. I could lose her, she could die.

Anger builds up within me at the thought. She can’t die, I won’t let her.

I fight against my restraints as I watch her grimace as she staggers back, her eyes glassing over. The huge man raises his blade above his head, ready to strike the last blow.

As he brings it down to meet Rena, I scream out her name before my mind blackens out.

R e n a

I’m wounded, weak and going to die. I close my eyes, ready for my fate. But the blow doesn’t come. Instead I hear Kian suddenly scream out my name.

Out of pure instinct, my eyelids burst open, my head automatically turning to Kian.

When I do, I feel my body stop in shock.

He isn’t tied up in the corner anymore; in fact the ropes are on the floor smouldering in black flames.

I look up at his face with my mouth shaped in a large O, unable to muster a word.

His eyes aren’t the familiar shade of green I’m used to, instead they’re a shocking black colour, drowning out even the whites of his eyes.

His blonde hair is floating oddly around his head, but there is no wind at all and we aren’t underwater.

I’m at a complete loss, as are the bandits, though they’re barely registered in my mind. All I can grasp is a question repeating itself over and over again in my mind; what has happened to him?

“K-Kian?” I stammer.

He doesn’t look at me; he only has eyes for the thugs that held him prisoner.

I glance over at them and notice that they too are frozen to the spot. Turning back to Kian and begin to slowly make my way over to him. I can’t stop wondering what’s happening to him, when I remember his heritage.

Halflings have magical abilities, much greater than demons. But I hadn’t ever heard of a Halfling being able to harness this power up until now.

I can easily admit that I’m terrified of him, terrified of what he is capable of.

As I fight my fear and slowly make my way to him, I try and think of a way to pull him out of this state. But before I can reach him, he slowly lifts his hand, his palm facing the man who was about to end my life.

Suddenly, what looks like a black bolt of lightning, shoots out of Kian’s hand straight at his target. He cries out and stumbles back as it hits him in his face. I watch in horror as he lifts his hands from his face to reveal the melting skin.

The boy and I scream simultaneously as I back away from Kian.

Kian then lifts his other hand, his palm facing the boy this time.

Two bolts of black lightning fly from his palms; one at the man, the other at the boy.

I sink into the corner, trembling with fear and blood loss as I watch their skin melt down their faces and blood flowing from their eyes and ears like some kind of sick human fountain.

My eyes tear away from the horrific sight and back over to Kian, who has a small grin on his face like he’s enjoying this sick show. My body is trembling violently and my breaths are short and quick, like the beating of my heart. My shaking hand brushes my cheek and I realize that I’m crying.

Kian hits them each with another lighting bolt and the sight of them joined with their screams becomes unbearable. Without thinking, I scramble to my feet and run to Kian, the world is spinning due to my wounds but I barely register the pain, my mind too horrified by the events unfolding. I begin to bash my fits against his chest as I scream for him to stop.

He doesn’t even acknowledge me and continues to torture them to death.

Their screams become even more unbearable and when I turn to glance at them, I immediately wish I hadn’t. Their faces are almost completely melted away and blood is splattered everywhere and the way they claw at their faces, makes me dryheave.

I turn away from the awful image now burnt into my mind and continue to bash my fists against Kian’s chest, screaming at him to stop, until my throat is raw. When the screaming stops and bodies slump to the floor into a bloody, horrific mess, Kian finally lowers his arms and then collapses to the floor.

I stand there, breathing raggedly as I stare down at Kian, my knees weak.

I always knew halflings could be dangerous, their abilities stronger than any demon or pure alike if harnessed. As incredible as they could be, I never want to see them in use again.

Now I that I’ve witness this part of Kian, he terrifies me. He had no control over his abilities. He couldn’t even acknowledge me in that state. With power like that, how could I trust him, or ever look at him the same way.

The way he killed his captors was nothing short of horrific. They were bad people, but no one deserves a death like that.

How can we ever go back to being us, if I tremble at the very thought of being near him.

K i a n

I wake up groggy and with a headache the size of Aldevia.

“What happened?” I ask myself as I sit up.

I finally open my eyes and I’m horrified at what I see.

It’s a blood bath. Covering the floor, splattered on the walls and even dripping from the ceiling though I refuse to look up. I fight the urge to vomit, my stomach squeezing with effort.

Then I notice the two mangled bodies lying in the middle of the lake of blood.

I heave as I realise they are the bandits who kidnapped me, not that you could recognize them now.

The suffering they must have gone through before dying must have been horrendous. No one should have to die that way.

As I look to my right, I notice Rena standing a little way from where I am. She covered in blood, her own and presumably theirs too.

I smile with relief and jump to my feet.

“Rena,” I breathe in relief, a smile forming on my lips.

I make a step towards her and she begins to back away. I watch her with confusion and spin around to see if anyone is behind me. There isn’t and so I turn back to face her, even more confused than before.

The look in her eye and the trembling of her body tells me she’s absolutely terrified.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” I ask her, suddenly worried.

“Please Kian...just don’t come any closer” she whispers as a tear falls down her cheek.

I stop in my tracks and stare at her completely dumbfounded by her odd behavior. Looking around once more, the answer slowly dawns on me.

I did this. I killed those two. I’m to blame.

The worst part is, I don’t remember killing them but I do remember their screams and Rena’s screams as she begged me to stop.

The sound of it all comes back to me instantly and then follows the guilt.

I look back at Rena and the guilt deepens. I did this to her, I’ve made her terrified of me. Hell, I’ve terrified myself.

“What have I done?” I whisper as I stare down at my hands.

“Why didn’t you stop?” Rena’s voice is uneven, the words forced.

“It wasn’t me, I wasn’t in control,” I plead, my voice desperate.

“But what you did...” She trails off, her eyes glossing over.

“I was only protecting you, I didn’t mean for this to happen,” I explain.

“Rena you’ve got to believe me, I’d never hurt you,” I beg.

I try to reach for her again, but she backs off once more, her body trembling from exhaustion, pain but most importantly terror.

“What if you did? You said it yourself, you weren’t in control,” she argues, her voice faint.

I can’t bear the fear in Rena’s eyes any longer and I dart out the door, ignoring her painful cry as she tries to follow me. The wind brushes my face and the thunder echoes in the dark night sky, but I don’t stop running until the forest surrounds me.

I drop to my knees as the rain starts to fall, merging with my angry tears.

I lie there alone while listening to the thunder and rainfall, hating the monster I’ve held dormant within me.

Fearing what I’ve become.

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